Awareness Day 2021-Not All Normals Are Equal

This Friday (21st May) marks Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Day. By partnering with our friends at the Spinal Injuries Association, Back Up and Aspire, the day aims to raise awareness of the daily, and often complex challenges faced by those living with an SCI. 

Given the extraordinary 12 months we have all faced, this particular awareness day provides an opportunity to not only reflect on the consequences of living with an SCI but to also consider how the global pandemic has impacted charities like Spinal Research in terms of both cost and opportunity.  

For me, three key themes have emerged: 

1. R&D at speed 

The collaborative response to Covid-19 by science, clinicians, regulators and industry was truly remarkable. The speed at which the genome was sequenced, vaccine candidates developed, tested, manufactured at scale and deployed to people is going to be heralded for decades when we look back on this time.  

Importantly, it shows that when appropriately funded and prioritised, scientific discoveries can be developed and deployed as real-world solutions in timeframes previously not imagined.  

Covid-19 has now created a blueprint for speed for R&D and it offers us chance to embrace the exciting possibilities of regeneration, human-technology-interfaces and precision medicine. An exciting time for science and humanity.    

2. What if normal wasn’t good enough in the first place?  

What have you missed the most during Covid-19? Spending time with friends and family? Hugging your loved ones? Visiting your favourite pub or restaurant? To book that last minute weekend getaway, climb that mountain or soak up the rays at the beach resort?  

Feelings of freedom, spontaneity and certainty underpin many of the things that we have missed.   

Unfortunately, these are feelings that the 60,000+ people living with SCI in the UK will not have the privilege to enjoy when “normal” does return for most in the UK. The inconvenience of impaired movement and sensation as well as the unwanted gifts of pain, spasticity and incontinence will mean restrictions will continue, indefinitely. For this group, normal is, and never was good enough. 

3. How do we build a more equal normal for SCI? 

At Spinal Research, we believe that the biggest impact we can make to the quality of life of a person with SCI is by restoring function through scientific research and development.  

By restoring the ability to grasp with your hand, to push or pull with your arms, to sit upright unassisted or even to breathe again without the aid of machines would radically change lives. By improving incontinence, alleviating chronic nerve pain and eradicating exhausting spasticity, we would be able to allow the SCI community to live a life on their own terms, with more freedom, spontaneity and certainty – a more equal normal. 

In the last 12 months, science, industry and health authorities have shown us that they can deliver solutions when appropriately funded and prioritised.  

We now want to leverage this, with the help of our supporters, partner organisations and Government to pull together the resources and expertise needed to fast-track the science and bring life-changing treatments to this most deserving of communities.  

Click here to help support our vital work. 

Harvey Sihota
Chief Executive, Spinal Research